Last summer, I had the opportunity to intern at the incredible Google, Inc. I was a BOLD intern in their Real Estate and Workplace Services Team, which is in charge of space acquisition and planning, as well as all the other internal Googler services (security, food, etc.). I was able to design and implement an internal tool for Googlers, but perhaps more importantly, I learned a number of valuable lessons. Without further ado, I present to you the 7 things I learned at Google.
Get feedback from users as early as possible
This is something that really hit home for me as a designer. Following the designer's mantra of "Fail early, fail often, fail cheaply," always get feedback from users as early on in the process as you can. You'll learn a more than you expected and probably save precious time and money. You might be tempted (as I was) to "finish" the first version of your project before showing it to people, but this eliminates the invaluable feedback you need about your proposed work flow. You might find yourself needing to start over (again, as I did) because you have to make a major change in the structure of your interface, something easily avoided by showing users wireframe concepts and ideas for the general flow of whatever process it is you are working on.
Communicate about the little things
Many times, you might not comment on something that you find problematic--something that you disagree with, annoys you, or could be better--because it is relatively minor. These sorts of things can go unmentioned and unnoticed, eventually turning into much bigger problems or feelings of resentment that lead to unhappiness at work. Everyone knows communication is key, but being vocal about the little things can be just as important as being vocal about more obviously important issues. Speaking up about something small can lead to improvements and optimizations that build up over the long run (and keep your team happy and running smoothly). Of course, always be careful about how and when you deliver your comments, but definitely be sure to not wait too long make them heard.
Go above and beyond your duties
The simple truth is, if you always go above and beyond your assigned duties, those you work for will have no choice but to reward you. Results speak for themselves.
Support your team.
Get your job done, and do it well, but also take time out to help others on your team perform at their best. You might not give a flying hoot about what they are doing, but your teams success is your success. As a bonus, you'll build strong interpersonal relationships that can be very advantageous in the long run.
Never let the chance to learn something new pass you by
Never choose not to learn something because you think you wont need it. Only pass up the opportunity to learn something new if you really need the time to get something important done, or you want to prioritize learning something else. Ignoring an opening to learn something new will leave you stagnant in your position, and there's no way of knowing when having that piece of information might be useful. Particularly for people like designers, who collaborate as part of multidisciplinary teams, knowledge is power. New ideas can only come from your collective set of experiences, so every new one increases the size of your toolkit.
Spend time to make time
Spend time planning your work and making sure your workflow (and workstation) is set up to be as comfortable and efficient as possible. Getting rid of small annoyances and inefficiencies in your process leads to huge savings in the long run. This is especially true for highly repetitive processes (save tons of time) and ergonomics (save your health and comfort). Also make sure to double check your safeguards (make sure your backups are actually backing up). You'll be glad you did when something goes awry, as happened to me several times.
Ride the wave
Not Google Wave, that's not doing so hot...I mean that you should look for areas and industries where a lot of things are changing. Find out where the movers and shakers are and jump right in there with them. Being in that sort of environment means that you'll be there when that once in a lifetime opportunity comes and you can ride that wave to success.